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Spectacular Colobus Trust

Corrin LaCombe, founder of Primate Connections recently visited the Colobus Trust, here is what she has to say.

Spectacular! ‘Spectacular’ is actually the only word in all the English language that I can use to describe my visit to Colobus Trust. It was just that amazing. From freshly cooked meals, to witnessing incredible victories with Betsy, to being situated on a fabulous piece of property that opens to the most beautiful white sand beach I’ve ever seen. This is what the Colobus Trust is all about. That is……….. aside from their no-nonsense, impressive, essential, productive, and smart primate conservation activities of course!! Wow, is about all I can say.

We traveled via tuk-tuk down to the ferry dock in Mombasa, Kenya to cross Kilindini Port and land in Likoni. Upon landing in Likoni, we haggled with drivers and guides till we were granted a price that suited us all. We then set off to The Trust. We could tell that we were getting closer and closer to our destination as more and more colobridges began to appear. How clever these horizontal ladders are, and the monkeys are using them. Reducing roadside fatalities. Yippie! Amazing victory number 1!

Before we knew it, we were there, at the big front gate. “This is the place”, I told my friend with a smile. Soon Tony, a member of staff at Colobus Trust, came to greet us with a big ole smile and tons of knowledge. As he showed us around the facility the totality and awesomeness of the work being done at the Trust became increasingly apparent. “We’ll just walk here through the Education Center, pass the tree nursery, to the veterinary quarters, and then on to the enclosure area, to finish at the quarantine facility”. Really? I thought to myself. This place is amazing.

While on site, we chopped food (YUM – You should see what these guys get to eat) and cleaned cages. The Colobus Trust has established protocols that make caring for the monkeys easy and engaging. Which says quite a lot considering there are some 14 vervets, 5 Sykes monkeys and two bush babies plus the quarantine and veterinary animals to care for onsite! I have visited many primate conservation/rehabilitation facilities and this one is top-notch. I felt honored to be involved even if only temporarily.

As our time too quickly rolled on at the Colobus Trust, we watched in amazement as Betsy literally climbed to new heights, researchers captured valuable data, and on-site team members responded to welfare calls concerning injured and captive individuals. Now that’s what I call full-service primate conservation.

The Colobus Trust also promotes and sells ‘good-wood’ carvings. These carving look like the typical wooden carvings you’d see throughout the streets of Kenya, but these are special because they are made from sustainable, quick growing trees rather than native hard wood tree species. This allows the revenue stream for the cavers and the Colobus Trust to continue, and helps saves trees that the local biodiversity depend on. Brilliant.

We hadn’t been there long, but it was nonetheless hard to say goodbye – especially with the wild baboon troop impeding our walk through the gate!

If you’re interested in volunteering at a primate conservation/rehabilitation center, be sure to check this place out. I highly recommend it.

Sending my biggest ‘thank you’ to Andrea, Keith and the rest of the staff and volunteers at the Colobus Trust. I thank you for your hospitality and for the work that you do.

 

 

My First Day

Kelly Martin arrived on March 1st and is here for six months as Betsy primary day carer. Read below for her first impressions of the Colobus Trust.

On my arrival I was welcomed firstly by the scorching heat and second by my very friendly taxi driver. The drive to Diani Beach took just under hour and half but went pleasantly fast. When I finally got to the Trust I was welcomed by Andrea the manager who had a young Colobus attached to her side called Betsy, who I will be fortunate enough to be working with over the coming 6 months.

I was shown to my room; it is a nice size with a maximum of 4 to a room and a shared bathroom. I was surprised by the available wardrobe space and the pleasant communal areas. I went on a tour shortly after, while the Trust is smaller than I had expected it is more than big enough for the animals it houses. The site is also frequent visited by wild baboons, Sykes monkeys and the black and white Angolan colobus by day and later at night bushbabies.

After I was shown all the work and living quarters and was introduced to some of the staff, I was shown the Beach, a minute walk from the volunteer house. It is breath taking with beautiful white sands and blue seas. I will enjoy spending my days off here as well as exploring the area. The whole time Betsy was with us sometimes running off to a new noise or catching something in her eye line to play with.

Later that day at dinner I was able to meet the other volunteers. The food was great and I was pleased to see there is a good variety of both traditional Kenyan and western food. I went to bed early to catch up on much needed sleep, from what I have seen today I think I will enjoy it here!

A Volunteers Experience with the Bridge Survey Research

Four weeks at Diani Beach is not enough. Originally I was only meant to be at the Colobus Trust for two weeks, but was very lucky to be able to extend my stay here. The time has absolutely flown by and we have definitely been kept busy with all the work to be done. Along with an introduction in the field to most of the regular Colobus Trust activities there have been many extra jobs for the staff and volunteers.

As a volunteer much of the last two weeks has been spent on the side of Diani Beach Road surveying the colobridges (Colobus monkey bridges). In pairs we are sent out for six hours to conduct a traffic survey and record the number of monkeys crossing the road using the bridges. It is valuable research for the Trust and so far seems to be proof that the colobridges are being used effectively. Although so far I have only seen the Sykes monkeys regularly using the bridges and not the colobus or vervet monkeys. Baboons on the other hand are regulars on the road and do not use the bridges, which causes a high risk of accidents. We have also learnt the hard way how to deal with baboons ourselves. After multiple lunches and snacks were stolen and feeling that we were being stalked and tormented by hungry baboons a little too close for comfort, we had to forgo taking packed lunches and deal with being hungry for a short while.

My volunteer experience at the Colobus Trust with Baby Betsy – Abi Walker

My primary role whilst I am volunteering at the Colobus Trust is to be the full-time carer to Betsy, the juvenile colobus monkey. I am sure many of you may of heard about Betsy’s story, for those who haven’t Betsy is the first hand-reared Angolan black and white colobus monkey to survive past 53 days old. She is now 11 months old and is slowly being prepared for her release back into the wild. This process will take up to a year yet as this would be the age she would naturally leave her mother and will also be at less risk from injury or even infanticide from the dominant male.
As her carer I spend the majority of the day teaching Betsy to climb trees and encourage her to use the trees which the wild troop of Colobus would use, we refer to this as forest school. In addition to this she is also being encouraged to forage and feed in the trees in order to prepare for life in the wild.
To date Betsy is learning extremely fast, she is spending an increased amount of time foraging in the trees and eating a colobus approved diet! The mornings are usually spent climbing in her favourite trees and picking out tasty leaves and buds to feed on. The wild colobus would naturally spend the majority of the morning foraging and feeding intensively in the trees, and will begin to rest in order to digest their food during the hottest hours of the day. So it really is great to see that Betsy is following a similar routine to that of the wild troop, as she will feed and play in the trees up until around 11am. To indicate that she is getting sleepy Betsy will initiate play and then will enjoy being groomed before falling asleep for an hour or so. Her sleep requirement is usually dependent upon how active (physically and mentally) her morning was, and how much she ate.
Betsy generally wakes up just after midday. Once awake Betsy is rejuvenated and ready to explore and climb some more trees! Tree climbing will usually take place in the garden, as this is where the majority of Betsy’s favourite trees are situated, but if Betsy is feeling extra energized and brave then we will venture into the nature trail. The nature trail is the Trust’s private forested area, which is like a playground for Betsy with lots of interesting smells, sounds, wildlife and trees to climb! The Sykes monkeys are often located in the nature trail too, which seems to amuse Betsy as she likes to play chase with them through the trees and bushes. Where there is Sykes, there is usually colobus nearby too, so it is not unusual to spot one of the home troops resting in the nature trail as well. Because of these factors the nature trail is an ideal environment for Betsy to be in, as what she experiences when training in here will be beneficial towards her release with the wild troop in the future.

Betsy at Forest School

Betsy meets Felice

Yesterday we introduced Betsy to Felice for some monkey play time!


Felice is a one year old male Sykes monkey, who came to the Colobus Trust in March 2010 after being orphaned when his mother was electrocuted. He was hand raised in the house by the volunteers, just like Betsy. For much of the last year Felice has been living in the rehabilitation enclosures with 10 other vervet and Sykes monkeys.
In the Diani Forest, Colobus monkeys most commonly associate with Sykes monkeys and the youngsters can spend many happy hours running through the trees playing. Since we do not have any other captive Colobus monkeys at the Trust and given Felice’s background combined with his continued dependence on humans and that he is around the same size as Betsy, it was decided he was the best choice for a playmate.
Felice was removed from the main enclosure and placed in one of our rescue crates; the crate was moved and put into our bushbaby enclosure, which is situated away from all the other monkeys and therefore limited interference from them. Betsy and I then climbed into the bushbaby enclosure and the doors were locked behind us. For the first 10 minutes Betsy moved around the enclosure by herself and we were able to assess the response of Betsy to Felice and Felice to Betsy – they spent much of the time cooing at each other through the mesh. When we were satisfied that there was no signs of aggression between them I opened the crate door and let them meet.
There was not a lot of contact between the two monkeys, Felice tried on a many occasions to groom Betsy, but Betsy ran away after a few seconds, and when Felice wasn’t looking Betsy would reach out and quickly stroke her tail or back but would run away when Felice turned to interact. However, the monkey’s communicated on other levels, they continued to coo at one another and had several incidents of non threatening eye contact.
After around 40 minutes I opened up the crate door and Felice quickly entered (probably due to the piece of mango in there) and he was returned to the vervets and Sykes in the rehabilitation enclosure without any adverse effects. Within 10 minutes of leaving the enclosure Betsy was fast asleep, apparently exhausted from the mornings excitement.
There next meeting will occur in a few days time and my aim is to observe from the outside this time rather than be part of the interaction.

The Story of Kijiji

Sadly, Kijiji died two days after this blog was written. However, due to the major impact she had the lives of the staff and volunteers here at the Trust we decided we would still like to share this experience.
For those of you who closely follow the Colobus Trust’s updates and stories, you will know that we recently celebrated the survival of baby Betsy; the longest lived hand-reared Angolan black and white Colobus monkey. Betsy is now four months old and like any young child she is driving the house crazy with her lively antics. Betsy now runs, jumps, and leaps all over the place, knocking down any object that can fall along the way; she is eating leaves and actually able to stand a few moments away from mum. It would appear from all of this that Betsy is a healthy young monkey and that we have succeeded in figuring out just what this little Angolan Colobus needs to be happy and strong. However, there is now a big change in Betsy’s life because we are happy to announce we have another infant Angolan Colobus in our care; Betsy’s adopted baby sister, Kijiji.
Baby Kijiji (meaning ‘village’ in Swahili) is now 28 days old (on May 17, 2011) and is the Trust’s second longest hand-reared Angolan Colobus monkey, and while she is strong just like her big sister, she is a completely different monkey. Unlike Betsy, who the Trust came to care for in her second week of life, we found Kijiji on what was most likely her first day in this world. Kijiji was discovered at a local hotel called Kijiji Cottages as a tiny, completely white Colobus with a long umbilical cord still attached to her and eyes fogged from a recent birth.
The staff at Kijiji cottages told us that they had been aware of the baby from 9am when they first heard an infant screaming in the Colobus troop that spends time on their plot. After closer examination it became clear that it was not the infant’s mother that was holding on to the baby but a male in the troop who was visibly unsure of what to do with the screaming fluff ball in his arms. Apparently the male continually left the baby alone in the trees as he fed with the troop and after a time would return for her and repeat the process. It was clear that the baby was distressed and hungry but no other monkeys in the troop responded to her calls. At around 2 pm after an entire day of the baby screaming the staff at Kijiji Cottages decided to call the Trust for help. They repeated the story as they knew it and we asked them to keep a close eye on her because we did not want to take her from her troop but it was disconcerting that she had been away from her mum for so long. Mother Colobus monkeys do at times leave their babies with other monkeys in the troop, usually an aunty, a sister or a daughter, as they go to feed and later return for their baby. While we were hopeful, it did not appear that this was what was happening in Kijiji’s case because a mother never leaves a baby for such an extended amount of time. At 2:30 pm the staff at Kijiji Cottages called again to inform us that the male that had been carrying the baby had left her alone on the ground and was no longer coming to collect her. It was at this point that we decided we needed to go to the site and see what was happening for ourselves.
At around 3 pm two of our staff (our manager, Andrea, and a volunteer) arrived at Kijiji cottages to see what needed to be done. The baby was wrapped in a towel inside the office still screaming and the troop was still nearby but paying no attention to the calls of the infant. It was then that we realized just how young the baby was and just how quickly we had to act. After picking the baby up to give it comfort and calm it down we observed the troop to see if any female could be the baby’s mother. No female could possibly have been its mother because every female we could see had an infant of its own, none the same age as Kijiji. It was obvious that Kijiji’s mother was missing and that we would have to take her because too much time had passed and we needed to take action. We are still unsure of what happened to Kijiji’s mother. As of now we are thinking that perhaps her mother died shortly after childbirth but no dead Colobus has been reported so we are unsure. Another possibility is that Kijiji was the weaker of two twins and her mother abandoned her to care for the stronger twin (the staff at Kijiji cottages reported that a new female with a young infant had joined the troop near their hotel days after we picked up Kijiji and may be her mother, we have yet to verify).
The outlook was not great For Kijiji because Angolan Colobus monkeys that come in at such a young age usually die fairly quickly due to their fragile nature. Nonetheless we gave Kijiji an adoptive mother to hold on to her and feed her a rehydration solution from a bottle because dehydration was our primary concern. Kijiji took the solution quite well despite her continued state of distress and we later began to feed her a diluted bottle of goat’s milk (we started with a 20% milk, 80% water mixture and have been upping the percentage of milk ever since). We also fed the baby a small amount of Colobus feces in her bottle of milk that we had collected from the troop which we hoped would give her the good Colobus bacteria that her stomach needed to digest the milk we fed her. As we let Kijiji feed we noticed bruising around her eyes that seemed indicative of being dropped but other than the bruising she showed no signs of trauma so we were not concerned.
We took the following weeks day by day; responding to Kijiji’s calls and indications of what she needed and working off of what we knew from raising Betsy. The information we had from raising Betsy was extremely helpful in rearing Kijiji but we learned very quickly that these are two very different monkeys with different temperaments and what worked for Betsy would not always work for Kijiji. Regardless, Kijiji exceeded all of our expectations and within a few days at the Trust she was very vocal about her needs, mainly: scream if you are hungry, scream if you are wet or covered in poo, and scream if you are cold. She quickly started to focus her eyes and discover her body, she began grabbing at things, whipping her tail, and experimenting with her legs. Kijiji is also slowly changing color and appears more and more black to us each day as she matures into a young Colobus. Unlike Betsy, Kijiji is a big eater who will eat until she is so full she vomits so we had to quickly figure out how to feed her to the point of satisfaction without making her sick. All the while we are very conscious of Kijiji’s hydration levels because that is what becomes most dangerous for a young Colobus, dehydration. There have been a few times where Kijiji has scared us due to her dehydration levels, the presence of diarrhea, and the occasional quiet and/or weak day. Regardless of these few bad days Kijiji remains very strong for the most part and never passes up a meal.
Kijiji is yet another hopeful case for us at the Colobus Trust and we enjoy each moment with her despite the consistent cries for food. We are very happy to have yet another healthy Colobus and hope that we have discovered what it is that young Colobus monkeys need. In the meantime we are doing our best to keep both Kijiji and Betsy healthy and hope that soon Betsy will have a fellow playmate and that the two will give us a moment’s rest. Thanks to all of you who have supported us and aided us in the two monkey’s care, we are grateful for your help and excited for the future.
Sadly, Kijiji passed away on the morning of 19th May. She had developed a cold, which had been caught from one of her carers. Unfortunately, this virus very quickly developed into pneumonia which Kijiji was unable to survive. As a four week old, hand reared infant, Kijiji had no immunity to help her fight infection. Infant primates rely on their Mother’s milk to provide antibodies, until their own immunity become active at around 6-8 weeks old. Her autopsy also revealed an enlarged liver – we are still gathering advice on the significance, if any, of this. She was only with us for 30 days, but we learnt a lot from Kijiji, her passing has left a large hole in the day to day live of the Colobus Trust.
Kijiji you were loved and will be sadly missed by all those who knew you.

http://www.justgiving.com/colobus-trustWith Molly her primary carer
Kijiji the afternoon she arrived

More than Monkeys: One volunteers experience of taking care of an orphaned Genet

On her first day in our care

We currently have a baby genet at the Colobus Trust which was found a few weeks ago being played with by a troop of vervet monkeys at the Diani Reef Hotel. The genet was weak and exhausted and showed signs of nerve and muscular damage from the incident, along with a small wound on her front left paw.
The Trust took her in and has assigned three volunteers to act as foster mothers to care for the genet, who is fed Cerelac cereal mixed with milk, and egg yolk every four hours and water every two hours in-between. The baby is taking the food well and is growing, becoming stronger and more active. She is a beautiful animal who has surprised everyone with her recovery, so the members of the Trust decided to call her Maridadi, which means “beautiful” is Swahili. Despite Maridadi’s great recovery from her nerve and muscular injuries she is still being cared for and monitored very closely because she has taken up the habit of biting her front paw, where the small wound was. No one is sure why this is happening, however, during one of her feeds Maridadi caused further damage to her toes. The Trust patched her up and she now wears a cone around her head to keep her from biting. The wound healed well and she was getting more mobile day by day. During feedings her cone was taken off and she was watched closely as she was allowed to run around the volunteer space to stretch her legs. Unfortunately, very recently Maridadi sneaked in another bite while being allowed to run around without her cone on. The lasting damage is still unknown but she may lose a toe. Again, the Trust has treated the wound and is no longer taking off her cone for feedings which means she will struggle to move as much as before.
Regardless of the damage Maridadi is a lively little baby who is growing quickly and all of us here at the Trust hope she recovers swiftly and will learn to leave her paw alone. In fact, just this week Maridadi ate her first bits of chicken and may be graduating from baby food to a more natural genet diet. But as long as Maridadi has her cone on she cannot feed herself so volunteers must give her either food or water every two hours around the clock. It is a tiring job but worth it as we watch her grow. The thoughts now are that Maridadi will join the Trust as a resident animal. Once she is grown and can feed herself she will be allowed to have free roam of the area but will be fed here at the Trust to keep her from eating the neighbor’s chickens. Genets are nocturnal mammals, so once Maridadi is old enough to care for herself she will be out at night and sleeping during the day. For now we enjoy Maridadi’s playful spirit and are doing our best to keep her healthy and figure out how to break her dangerous habit of biting.

Donate at http://www.justgiving.com/colobus-trust
By Molly Parren

Enjoying her early morning excerise

Exhausted after 10 minutes of play

Reuniting a lost infant Sykes with his Mum!!

At the start of our day a man arrives on a bike with a box containing a tiny baby Sykes monkey. Two troops had been fighting nearby and this little one had been injured, fallen out of the trees and was left behind.

We take him into the vet clinic to asses and estimate the baby to be about 2 to 3 weeks old. He is absolutely tiny. He has a couple of wounds on his side and his arm but nothing serious. He is quickly patched up and given an antibiotic shot. It was important to try and get him back to his mother as soon as possible.

We put him in a carry cage and set off in search of the troop. We find one near where he was found so we take the cage down a path and open the door. We are hoping the mother will appear. It should be very obvious if this happens as she should be frantic and desperate to get him back. The baby comes out of the cage and monkeys come down to investigate. They are interested but none of them appear to be his mother. We follow them for about 5 minutes but the troop seems more interested in us and getting us to go away than in taking the baby. Clearly this is not his troop so we scoop him up and take him back the Trust.

We are still hopeful that we will be able to find his family, but for now we need to make sure he is ok and doesn’t go into shock. We settle him in the cage with a hot water bottle and a stuffed panda to provide a surrogate mother. We decide to allow about 48 hours to get him back to his troop. If we can’t do this we will have to hand rear him.

I am tasked with looking after him in the meantime. We check his weight and calculate his stomach capacity so we know how much we can feed him. He will need to be fed baby formula every 3 hours. I give him some glucose syrup and keep an eye on him. Despite his traumatic morning he actually seems quite relaxed. He watches everything that goes past and makes some chirping noises. I give him some leaves to play with and he takes a nap. It is important to look out for signs of shock so I check him every 10 minutes. He seems to be very resilient though and is looking good.

In the afternoon our local Sykes troop, who is most probably the second troop involved in the dispute this morning, appears in the garden so it’s time to try again. We put him in the large outdoor cage and watch. There is certainly lots of interest and a few of the monkeys begin to clamber on the cage to investigate. There are two lactating females in the troop. One already has an infant but one doesn’t. She is definitely interested and makes soothing noises to him and warns us off when we try to approach. After carefully observations we are happy that we have located the infant’s mother. We take the baby out of the cage and put him among the trees. Sure enough this female is keen and tries to pick him up. Unfortunately the baby doesn’t want to go with her! We watch nervously for a while, other monkeys come forward and begin grooming him but he still won’t let the female pick him up. After about 15 minutes he almost falls off a branch and grabs onto the female. She picks him up, he holds on tight and away they go. One of the team follows the troop for a while and soon he is seen suckling. A big success for us! We hope he will do well back with his family.

Donate at http://www.justgiving.com/colobus-trust

My Life at the Colobus Trust By Peter Ndungu

I began working at the Trust in 2005 as a casual worker, and later in Jan 2006 I was employed as the driver. I expected my area of work to revolve around the transportation and mobility of the Trust but, alas, I was definitely wrong. I found myself getting involved in other daily tasks such as feeding the animals, Colobridge maintenance, logistics, maintaining of the Trust and environmental tasks outside the trust, including the colobus corridor. I have also represented the Trust at many fundraising events, including Diani Rules
In this role I have been able to appreciate our natural forest and its habitat in a way I have never done before. I remember on one occassion, we were on a desnaring project and we found a colobus monkey that has been caught in a snare, died and still remained a captive even after death until its body had decomposed and all that was left was a lifeless skeleton. This situation is cruelty of the highest degree. I sadly realised how much work that needed to be done. I became so passionate and realised that all along there was this person in me that had never been tapped, that this person enjoyed and loved the environment and that, that was where my heart lies. Ever since I have worked in this field of conservation diligently and whole-heartedly, because when you follow your heart it will alwways be right and true to you.
My weekly activities at the Trust involve working in both the trust compound as well as field work. In a normal week I report to work on a Monday by 8am, check my weekly schedule and embark on the work plan. My week entails tree trimming activities, maintenance of the Trust structure, colobridging, animal welfare, eco-tours, de-snaring activites, logistics, purchasing of items for the Trust, running errands such as dropping off notices to Diani residents, and vehicle maintainance. I have been involved in tree planting activities at different sites including the Kayas, school grounds and private/residential properties.
In the Trust I have experienced ups and downs like any organisation. One of my lower points was during the post elections when the trust experienced major financial setbacks and almost came to closure, however we worked hard to make ends meet and overcome the difficulties.
My major disappointment at the Trust is the rate of deforestation that is taking place in Diani Beach. Other disappointments include poachers who are poaching and killing helpless animals. I am not only concerned for the animals at the Trust, but also those animals not covered by the Trusts work, for example, in the area where I live the kids and adults have nicknamed me ‘Colobus’, because they know I don’t entertain activities involving hurting animals llike throwing stones, strictly prohibited.
I am inspired by people who work fearlessly to conserve the environment and who donate generously to keep the Trust running smoothly.

Donate at http://www.justgiving.com/colobus-trust
Peter in the Colobus Trust truck

Baby Betsy does it!!

Baby Betsy has done it! On Thursday 24th March she reached 53 days in our care, making her the longest hand reared Angloan Colobus monkey on record, any where in the world.
Betsy continues to grow well and is very quickly turning from grey to black and white, and developing the most beautiful irredisent white epilettes. She is now experimenting with wild leaves and flowers, with her favourite being the hibiscus and bourgenvillia flowers. As she developes she is becoming braver and more interested in her environment, not longer is she content with sitting in her little pouch but prefers riding high on the shoulder where she can better survey her surroundings.
The Colobus Trust wish to thank everyone who has shown support and interst in Betsy and for all the generous donation we have recieved.

Donation to The Colobus Trust can now be made at  http://www.justgiving.com/colobus-trust
A very rare dinner out to celebrate 53 days